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The Most Important Keywords for Your Job Search and Career

By Susan P. Joyce

The Most Important Keywords for Your Job Search and Career

One set of keywords is critical to the success of your job search, but, like most of us, you probably aren't paying much attention to them. Time to change that!

These keywords should uniquely identify you in every search of every search engine, or, at a minimum, have you appear on the first page of search results when this set of keywords is used in a search.

Those MOST Critical Keywords: Your "Professional Name"

This is the set of keywords that allows recruiters to "connect the dots" between your resume and your LinkedIn Profile -- a requirement, today. Since more than 80% of recruiters do an online search using a candidate's name, this version of your name also connects your application with all of your other online activities (careful!).

You could think of this as your "screen name" like actors have had in the past when we saw their names up on the movie screen. Unless being a movie or TV star is your career goal, we're talking computer screens (tablet and smart phone screens, too), not movie or TV screens.

This does NOT involve going through the process of changing your name legally. Your legal name is unchanged. This involves changing the version of your name used in your work and your job search -- whenever you are visible as a professional. You may add or remove a middle initial or middle name, and other similar simple changes.

Read Finding the Best Version of Your Name for Your Job Search for more details.


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Why Your "Professional Name" Is SO Important

If that recruiter or hiring manager (or networking contact) can't find you online when they are searching for you, you have a very serious problem -- one that could cost you a job opportunity!

When they conduct that search, they need to find your professional presence quickly and easily, preferably on the first page of search results on a search for your name (because few people go to page two).

Five ways your professional screen name helps you:

  1. It shows employers and recruiters "social proof" of the qualifications your resume or application claims you have.
  2. It connects employers and recruiters to credibility-building content that validates what your resumes and profiles claim.
  3. It separates your online identity from others who have the same name but are not you and may, in fact, have done things publicly that could damage opportunities for you.
  4. It enables members of your network to find you easily.
  5. It keeps your public informal identity separate from your public professional identity.

Employers, recruiters, and networking contacts can help your job search - if they can find YOU.

What Is a "Professional Name"

Your "professional screen name" is the version of your name you use whenever and wherever you have a professional presence. It is not a fictional name, like movie stars had in the past -- Cary Grant's real name was Archibald Leach. That is NOT what we mean here.

This is a version of your real name that hopefully will not be confused with anyone else. You may need to add or remove a middle initial or middle name, or you may need to change the version of your first name that is used, like "William" becomes "Bill" (or vice versa). People can still call you "Bill" when they know you, but for your online visibility, you may need to be "William."

If you are married, you can add your maiden name if you changed your last name after your marriage.

Where and When to Use Your Professional Name

Use this version of your name in all of your official professional activities. You don't see an actor calling himself "Willam Smith" in movies and "Bill Smith" on TV. They use one version of their name for all of their professional visibility. As we all should...

Use this name consistently for:

  • Your business/networking cards
  • Your resumes
  • Your cover letters
  • Your job applications
  • Your LinkedIn Profile
  • Your professional Google+ Profile
  • Your professional/work email
  • Your name badges at professional meetings
  • Your professional blog, guest posts, and comments
  • Your professional Facebook and Twitter activities
  • Your professional Pinterest and Quora activities
  • Professional association memberships and directories
  • Your other professional activities, online and off

This is the name you always use to reach out to employers and your professional network. It establishes and supports your online professional persona, "connecting the dots" for everyone.

Next: Finding the Best Version of Your Name for Your Job Search

Claim Your Name on LinkedIn

Because search engines trust LinkedIn and because it is used so intensively for recruiting, the best place to claim your name is on LinkedIn. Then, use that version of your name everwhere else in your professional online visibility.

Bottom Line

Your name is how people find you online. One version of your name used for all of your professional activities online and offline will enable employers, recruiters, and people in your network to find you. Think of those actors who have screen names, and be consistent.

For More Information About Names Online

More about Keywords:


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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